America isn’t reading.
According to The Huffington Post, literacy rates have not been improving in the last decade despite the advancement of education systems. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy states that 14 percent of American adults perform at a “below basic” reading level, and 29 percent read at the “basic” level.
Before Netflix, Youtube, and iPhones, society enjoyed books—now a dying phenomenon.
For centuries prior to the digital age, books were popular forms of entertainment, expression and knowledge. But lately and especially among young people, books have come to represent more of a dreaded requirement rather than an entertainment source.
Young people today typically choose their phones and videogames over books. As the internet continues to expand and entertainment choices widen, the ancient scripts are falling further behind.
Many students would rather spend their free time using new technology rather than picking up an archaic book. Even in school, students do everything they can to avoid the often-resented task of reading.
When a teacher assigns a book, many students use websites like SparkNotes and Shmoop to read a summary of the reading assignments, as well as get an analysis of the book’s deeper connotations of the work—all in less than thirty minutes of online reading. With this power at their fingertips, some students can pass book-based quizzes, tests and homework assignments without ever even opening the book.
Movies and audiobooks are also tantalizing alternatives to old-fashioned reading. Many prefer for the story to play out before their eyes as they sit back, watch and listen.
Such alternatives could be playing a role in the decreasing attention spans of the younger generations. With the continuous development of the internet, adolescents can gain immediate satisfaction and access information without having to embark on the journey of actually reading a book.
A study by Microsoft Corporation in 2015 found that people’s attention spans—the amount of time spent on tasks without being distracted—have reduced from 12 seconds to eight seconds due to the digital technology that surrounds us today. Less time spent reading and more time spent texting is deteriorating American minds.
It has become simpler to filter out unnecessary information compared to heavy encyclopedic methods. Students are capable of searching key terms and quickly getting answers without any work.
Leisure time dedicated to reading has decreased severely. The Washington Post reports that 28 percent of Americans read by choice in 2004; today the percentage lies at 19 percent.
Whether the story is fiction or nonfiction, reading about other people’s lives and experiences provide deep insight to our own lives. Many children, teenagers and even adults underestimate the significance of reading books.
Books furnish the reader with the freedom to imagine, customized to the reader’s vision, while movies consist of a fixed setting visually projected on the screen.
Books give people options to imagine and experience the lives of the characters even living their lives. A reader can use their imagination to experience rich stories and different time periods, in essence becoming lost in the story. Historical, futuristic and dystopian novels place readers inside new worlds limited only by imagination.
The lack of exploring our imaginations through reading has deteriorated creativity
Ultimately we could lose the ability to even “think outside of the box” because of this continuing creative decay, eventually leading to the extinction of creativity.
As America reads less, American minds rot.
So before reading completely dies out, it’s important that Americans pick up some books and start reading again.